Amid Wagnerian scenes of thunder and lightning over west London, West Ham's best hope of salvaging something from the day turned out to be an abandonment. The unpredictable Easter weather was against them, however, like so much else, even assisting Fernando Torres to break his scoring duck at last after 732 minutes in a blue shirt. Despite a brave fight founded on a bold 4-3-3 formation, West Ham finished the game where they had begun it, at the bottom of the table.
For once they made light of missing Scott Parker, named Footballer of the Year on Friday, even after losing another midfielder, Mark Noble, to injury. The captain Matthew Upson had not been able to play and luck was absent too, two goal-bound efforts being blocked by defenders.
It did not look like a 3-0 game and nor was the gap between the sides reflected in the respective performances. But Chelsea, with the old reliables Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and John Terry to the fore, came through and stay six points behind Manchester United with four games to play – one of them at Old Trafford.
Afterwards Carlo Ancelotti was less confident of achieving his team's aim than Avram Grant of his. "We have less possibility [of the title] because we have one game less," Ancelotti admitted. "I think we stay in the League," Grant claimed, while agreeing that the area in which West Ham must improve is the conversion of chances.
There had been applause before kick-off for the former Chelsea men Parker, Carlton Cole and Grant. Less well received was Wayne Bridge, who had famously refused to shake Terry's hand before his Manchester City team played here last season. This time there was no attempt by either player to observe the courtesies.
Chelsea seemed to have decided that Bridge's partner at full-back, Lars Jacobsen, was the weak link, and it was no surprise that the opening goal materialised from that area. Half a dozen times beforehand, Ashley Cole or Florent Malouda had been played into the space behind Jacobsen. When Drogba, dropping deep, played yet another ball inside the right-back, Cole was on to it immediately, cutting back a precise pass into the path of Lampard. The West Ham old boy scored with a thump.
That curtailed an encouraging revival by West Ham after being comprehensively outplayed in the opening 20 minutes. When they finally moved forward, Demba Ba unleashed a fizzing shot from 30 yards that Petr Cech had to turn over the crossbar for one of a series of corners. Another was forced by Jonathan Spector's header after a break and cross by Freddie Sears. From the next corner Sears was able to manage nothing more than a flick, which Ashley Cole blocked on the line.
By the start of the second half, not only had a number of the floodlights gone out but the amount of water on the pitch had become a serious handicap. Michael Essien and Noble may or may not have blamed if for the injuries they suffered soon after the resumption. There were soon more powerful efforts from David Luiz, who sent a shot from 30 yards against Rob Green's crossbar, and at the other end Ba, with a drive that Cech could not hold. Manuel da Costa's header from a corner was blocked by Jon Obi Mikel, and Robbie Keane shot wastefully from 10 yards.
Torres was given 14 minutes in place of Drogba, quickly setting up another substitute, Nicolas Anelka, for a shot that Danny Gabbidon headed off the line. Given his big opportunity, he was helped when the ball held up in the wet, swinging his left foot to spark protracted celebrations on the pitch and off. Malouda's late goal only made West Ham's day more miserable. This may be the twilightof their Premier League life.
Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the match: Malouda
Match rating: 7/10Reuse content